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Employee Surveys: a Strategic Tool for Positive Change
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Employee Surveys: a Strategic Tool for Positive Change

by Marcia Zidle

Employee surveys can be efficient and low cost methods to connect to your people, to show them that their opinions count, and to act as lightning rods for change. Did you know if you can measure it you can manage it better?

Do you want to measure your workers' level of satisfaction? Or change policies and procedures to make them more effective? Or find out if your supervisors are stuck in out-dated ways of managing? Good Idea! But how do you make sure you are getting reliable information to make sound management decisions?

When it comes to conducting quality research, a pound of prevention is worth much more than one ounce of cure. Here are five steps to turn your employee surveys into a powerful strategic change management tool.

Have a Real Business Reason.

Organizations that use surveys as a strategic tool typically start out with a clear-cut objective. If they are losing good people, they ask what they can do to improve employee retention. If they are contemplating changes in benefits and compensation policies, they zero in on what's important to employees, what's not important, and where employees would like to see changes.

Communicate the Survey's Purpose.

Once the organization knows what it wants to cover in the survey, it alerts the participants that the survey is coming, tells them what it's about, and makes it clear that their responses will influence the company's subsequent actions. Without this communication, employees who would otherwise support the survey become confused, frustrated, and eventually complacent. Loss of this critical mass of support can limit the usefulness of the collected information and also may eventually doom whatever changes the company begins to implement.

Ask the Right Questions.


The best questions ask employees about their direct experiences and observations. The least useful ones ask employees about their feelings. For example, if you ask employees if they are satisfied with their jobs, a positive answer can mean many different things. One employee may be satisfied because the job is challenging and provides opportunities for advancement; another may be satisfied because the job pays a lot of money for very little work. Such answers don't give management information they can act on.

Perhaps the worst questions are those that provide information the company is not prepared to deal with. The salary question is a good example. If you ask employees whether they are happy with their salaries, you may create an expectation that you will make changes based on the results of the survey. This can lead to increased dissatisfaction if, after the survey, no changes are made.

Share the Results.

Many employees feel that their survey responses simply fall into a black hole, never to emerge. Letting employees know, in a really visible way, about the survey findings creates a positive mood and sets the stage for a follow-up survey or future intervention. This assures everyone that his / her their time wasn't wasted and that their opinions were heard and acted on. Even if something happens as a result of the survey, if they don't hear about it they will not make the connection. Feedback sessions ensure that people understand the information and can use it to answer their own questions and make positive change.

Never Survey Without ACTION.

The purpose of a survey is to provide sound reliable information to guide decisions and make things happen. Probably the worst mistake is deciding not to do anything at all with the survey results. An employee survey is an implicit promise of an intention to make changes. When employees see management do something with the information they provided, employee trust the process of data collection more; they engage more; and they give more feedback in subsequent surveys. In other words, actions lead to wins.

Employee surveys, if done right, are efficient and low cost methods to connect to your people, to ask them what they think, to show them that their opinions count, and to act as lightning rods for change. Remember: if you can measure it you can manage it better.

Marcia Zidle, a business and leadership development expert, works with entrepreneurial organizations who want to be a dominant player in competing for customers, clients, funding or community awareness.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy say, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”. Well business, government and community leaders, Marcia says, “It’s no longer business as usual anymore; its business that has to better than usual.”

Do you want to be better than usual? Then subscribe to Making Waves! a free monthly e-newsletter with quick lessons on better, faster, smarter ways to lead. Sign up now at http://www.LeadersAtAllLevels.com and get a 35 page bonus e-book: Make Bold Change! 101 Ways to Stomp Out Business As Usual. Or contact Marcia directly at 800-971-7619.

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